When I was 15 years old, in a meeting with a school counselor, I was asked if I think it’s possible that I might have bipolar disorder. At 15, ignorant to what bipolar disorder is and the subtle ways in which it manifests itself, I said, “No I think I’m fine, I’m just a perfectionist and I over react sometimes. And like, I’m 15 life is supposed to be hard right now,” A good answer, but I was wrong. I was not fine and my tendency to over react when things went wrong had nothing to do with being a perfectionist. In fact, I could go periods of time not caring about any of the minute details of my life, until eventually I would care and want to do nothing but worry, or cry, or sleep.
When I’m in a hypomanic state, I like to believe that I am feeling “normal”. I’m being social, I’m confident, my mind isn’t coming up with ridiculous things to worry about, I have all of these amazing, billion-dollar ideas, I must have been having a bad week when I was upset, it happens, I’m fine. Except I’m not fine, I’m not behaving normally. My social filter is disintegrated and I could snap into a rage at any time, my confidence is baseless and borders on narcissism, I may not be making up things to worry about but I’m also not worrying about things that are normal and necessary to be worried about. My ideas may be great but they’re also not very reasonable. Although it’s potentially a dangerous state to live in, I would take living in this state over the opposite every day.
It’s easy to describe the hypomanic state. I didn’t cringe about it, I didn’t feel sick to my stomach, and my mind didn’t begin to feel crushed like it does at the thought of a depressed state. When I was writing about the hypomanic state I didn’t have to think about the innumerable fights with my parents when my coarse words come out without registering, I didn’t think about how I can feel the faith my friends have in me slip out of my fingers when I confront them about some delusional thought I’ve had. When I’m in a hypomanic state I’m not constantly telling myself how hard I’m trying to feel better, how no one will ever truly be able to love me, how I can never be 100% honest with anyone. I don’t have a knot in my stomach all day, my mind doesn’t constantly race, I don’t sleep all day. I don’t pray every second of every day that it will end and everything will be back to “normal”.
Despite the vicious cycle of highs and lows, I often go weeks or months where I really am genuinely okay. I’m grateful for these days when I can completely forget about the mistakes I’ve made and the pain I’ve experienced from living with a mental illness. On these days, I can forget the horrible things I’ve said to them, and the multiple times I’ve let them down and truly feel thankful for the love my parents and friends show me. I live for these days when I can love and be loved by the people I care about.
It’s easy to say, “I’m going to really get help this time, I’m going to get better, I promise”. Everyone means it when they say it; everyone wants it to be true. But it’s hard, and it’s scary, and the stigma on mental illness is difficult to overcome. At 18 years old, I have a full life ahead of me. There are so many people that I care about who truly do care about me. Dealing with a mental illness isn’t easy, but it’s possible to live a normal life and I believe that it’s worth it even in situations less fortunate than mine. I’ve tasted normalcy, and I’m going to do any and everything to find it again and seize it this time and not let go.